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The upgrade is focused on long-haul economy service, for the cabin it calls World Traveller. Starting January 17, in what the airline says is a “multi-million pound investment,” passengers will be served an improved, four-course meal while upgraded snack baskets will be circulated throughout the flight.
Some of the improvements include replacing the plastic water cup served with the meal with a bottle of water and upgrading the second meal to a pizza wrap.
For many, the catering improvements can’t come soon enough. Under Alex Cruz (a CEO hired from Spanish low-cost carrier Vueling) and amid tight competitive pressure, British Airways has cut dramatically over the last few years. On short-haul flights, the carrier stopped giving free snacks last year, choosing to sell packaged goods from Marks and Spencer. That move initially irritated travelers but enraged them when the carrier started regularly running out of food.
Cabin design has also suffered. British Airways recently confirmed it will introduce a series of ultra-dense cabins on short-haul flights with seats that don’t recline, leading many to compare the airline directly to the low-cost carriers premium travelers despise.
In addition, British Airways is moving to a revenue-based loyalty program this year, meaning some frugal but loyal flyers may earn fewer points than before.
Perhaps to counter some of the negative sentiment regarding its brand, in November the airline embarked on a campaign to return to the “glory days” of air travel. Among other improvements, British Airways committed to expanding Wi-Fi, adding new aircraft, and improving catering.
Despite the renewed effort, it remains to be seen whether the improvements are enough to curry favor with travelers.
Most major carriers in the United States invested heavily in catering through 2017, taking some of the profits generated from ancillary fees and relatively cheap fuel to strategically upgrade meals on high-value routes. So while British Airways may have improved catering, it still won’t be better than the competition.
— Grant Martin
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